Winter has always been a sweet spot for discovering and sharing music. A little bit mellow, comforting — something you can listen to as a fire crackles or cozy up beside with a mug of hot coffee.
In heeding the groundhog's warning of "six more weeks of winter," here's a short list of independent music to help you make it through the season's chill: Three albums hosted over at Bandcamp that might provide a little warmth on the colder nights.
Aaron Roche and Tim Hinck - Plainspeak
Brooklyn singer/songwriter Aaron Roche partners with friend Tim Hinck to release what they’re calling a “large scale classical/folk record.” This is more of a collection of movements, than songs, blending sporadic creativity and structured songwriting into one powerfully fluid and contemplative journey.
It’s a fair step beyond Roche’s simple guitar-and-vocal albums, but his passion for creating an atmosphere for reflection is evident. After a six minute instrumental, he sets the tone with words of complexity, context, and a prone-to-wander persona, off to “grieve the death of glory / and a god who won’t relate,” while imparting a final wish to “save a thought for me / like a line that won’t convince / or an instrument of little resonance.”
This seems to set the tone: uncertain expectations, discovery, hope. Throughout the journey the mood intensifies and diverges from powerful instrumentation to simple plain speak. It’s a story that’s open ended, yet to conclude, a movement to be read into; one of chill and warmth.
kindlewood – Desiderium
The DC area group’s debut album (Des-i-de-ri-um) evokes some strong emotions. Fronted by husband-wife Kelci and Galen Smith, and singer/songwriter friend Jamison Lyman, the trio blends influences of folk music old and new, in their first full length – which launched last year from support via Kickstarter.
Kindlewood’s passion is evident behind each track. Desiderium’s opener unravels layer by layer, the calmness of acoustic guitar and humming strings introduce the aura as the vocals expand to the accompaniment of melodic percussion. On each track, Kelci Smith’s voice transports the listener to a new place – one that’s sentimental and bold, triumphant and searching. She sings with raw honestly in the title track, “We’re all digging trenches of delirium / we gotta find a way.” Throughout she fades affection into something powerful, singing in “Mon Ami,” both in English and French, “What to say to you my friend / What to say to you today / You have shown grace today / You have shown grace.”
As the sister of pastoral folk songwriter, and most recently ex-Fleet Foxes member, J. Tillman, she leads kindlewood in similar paths of rustic and religious allusion, but sets her sights to a lighter outpouring.
Phil Cook and His Feat – Hungry Mother Blues
Durham, NC native Phil Cook expends most of his musical offerings with the folk super-group Megafaun, but during his time in-between, he’s released a few albums of his own. Combining the lead melodies reminiscent of old Americana roots music while adding his own alt-folk senses, Phil Cook’s most recent effort, Hungry Mother Blues, is a sparse, yet deeply satisfying collection of songs that’ll make you want to tap a toe as you sit back in an easy chair, dreaming of nature, wonder, and spirit.
Joshua Witchger is an online assistant at Sojourners. Follow him at hail fellow well met.